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mortuary totem

mortuary totem
Photo Information
Copyright: michael shalter (retlash) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 61 W: 1 N: 332] (1730)
Genre: Places
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2011-07-19
Categories: Artwork
Camera: Canon PowerShot S3 IS
Exposure: f/3.5, 1/50 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2011-09-04 10:09
Viewed: 3363
Points: 0
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved from large trees, mostly western red cedar, by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific northwest coast of North America. The term "totem" originates from the Ojibwe "odoodem," meaning "his kinship group." First Nations origin stories tell of the animals and supernatural beings who helped found family lineages. These stories are celebrated in songs, dances, and totem pole carvings. Favorite animals are the thunderbird, killer whale, wolf, raven, and bear.
Being made of cedar, which decays eventually in the rainforest environment of the northwest coast, few examples of poles carved before 1900 still exist.
The meanings of the designs on totem poles are as varied as the cultures that carved them. Totem poles may recount faliliar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. Others are mainly artistic representations. Poles illustrate stories that commemorate historic persons, represent shamanic powers, or provide objects of public ridicule.
Totem poles were never objects of worship. Vertical order of images is widely believed to be a significant representation of importance. Hence the phrase "low man on the totem pole." In fact, there have never been any restrictions on vertical order, and many poles have significant figures on the bottom or in the middle. Other poles have no vertical arrangement at all, consisting of a lone figure atop an undecorated column.
This totem pole is one of a dozen assembled on Stanley Island in Vancouver, B.C. It's called Chief Skedan's Mortuary Pole. An older version was raised in 1870 in Skidegate village. This one was carved in 1964. At the top is the moon, next down is a mountain goat (note the black hooves), next down is a grizzly bear (with the same face as the goat but with paws), and at the bottom a killer whale. The two tiny figures in the bear's ears are the chief's daughter and son-in-law who erected the pole. The rectangular board at top covered a cavity that held the chief's remains.

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